What to know before traveling overseas.
Be aware of money in different cultures
Many people in other countries look at Americans as being wealthy in comparison to themselves. They may pull out the red carpet and find it hard to understand that you might be scraping the bottom of the barrel for your vacation experience. Wealth however is relative, and to a houseboy in Bali we are indeed much better off. A $50 tip in Bali could represent a month’s wages in some instances.
You will be taking on an exciting challenge
When traveling anywhere new, you have the opportunity to view the world from an entirely new perspective. Some things you can learn about are:
- People. You’ll no doubt come home with the knowledge that all people of the world are amazingly alike despite the obvious differences. Children especially the same in all countries and it is only as we become older that cultural differences start to show.
- Laws. Remember you are not at home now and no matter whether you agree with the laws or not you are obliged to abide by them. If you do not you will displaying an unwelcome arrogance and could suffer a stern penalty.
- Clothing. In the US, we are used to a very liberal tolerance as far as clothing is concerned. We can move around freely dressed and not think anything about it – some attire can be quite offensive in some countries.
- Customs. In some places leaving your shoes on can be severely frowned upon, while at the same time, showing of bare arms or bare feet are definite no-nos. Even the hand you eat from can cause concern in some middle east countries.
- Religion. When visiting religious sites many of these customs are strictly enforced. It is advisable to take a long sleeved jumper with you at all times, even in the heat of summer.
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Don’t forget your health insurance
Make sure you adequate health insurance that will protect you under all circumstances. Not all countries of the world practice the same basic health practices, and because of this you could be vulnerable to many illnesses you haven’t even heard of back home.
- Travel insurance often includes a rather comprehensive health coverage as well.
Don’t avoid those immunizations
You must undergo certain immunizations before you can travel through some countries. Ask a doctor before traveling so you can be made aware of any precautions you should take. Malaria pills are a prime example if you are visiting Asian countries close to the tropics where the malaria carrying mosquito is common. Even if immunization is expensive, you must prep yourself before traveling.
Don’t drink tainted water
In many countries overseas their water is highly contaminated. You might see locals drinking it, but they have built up an immunity to its impurities. Be very careful what you drink or you could end up quite ill. If bottled water is not available, you should boil the water first – or resort to chlorine tablets.
Make room for a small medical kit
Your basic medical kit should contain a supply of painkillers, hand sanitizers, band aids, as well as any prescribed medication you may have to take. It is a good idea to take enough prescribed medication with you to last your entire trip no matter where you will be traveling. Pharmacies might not be as readily available and you might need to visit a local doctor in order to get medication prescribed to.
Documents are important in proving who you are
Your personal identification documents proving that you are a US citizen entitled to be in a foreign country should always be on hand. Make copies of all your documents and put these copies in a safe place where you can always grab them if required, take another set with you as a back up while you travel.
The type of documents you will need to take with you include the following:
- Emergency contacts. This list could contain friends you know in the country you are visiting, the US Embassy in that country, and contacts back home so that your identity can be verified.
- Insurance policies. Especially your travel and health insurances.
- Accommodation details. You should have addresses and phone numbers, booking details, dates and payment confirmation of where you are staying.
- All your travel plans. This should include flights, booking references, dates, times and payment confirmations.
- Your passport. Guard this intently along with your visa’s that give approval for you to enter the relevant countries you are visiting while away from home.
The government provides a service that lets citizens notify the closet US Embassy or Consulate about their trip. The Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) is free and can contact you in the event of an emergency, get you in touch with friends or family and offer general safety tips.
Covering your tracks
Before leaving, make sure you have someone visit your home daily to remove mail building up in your mailbox, take care of your pets and turn a light on at night. This could be a relative or a friend, but you could arrange to pay a neighbor a small amount to help you out.